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SBS Transit goes big on premium services January 10, 2008

Posted by hafizbam in Something New.
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In what seems to be SBS Transit’s Christmas gift for residents in certain towns under its purview, eight new City Shopper premium bus services were introduced on 15 December 2007. They are routes 551 (Hougang), 575 (Bedok), 576 (Tampines), 577 (Ang Mo Kio), 578 (Sengkang), 579 (Tampines/Simei), 580 (West Coast) and 581 (Punggol).

Charging a flat fare of $3.30 or $3.60 (for 578 and 581), these routes carry on the tradition of earlier basic plus and premium services by beginning their journeys at some weird location in the HDB heartland instead of the town bus interchange, trying to serve much of the town before hitting the expressways to Orchard Road and Suntec City.

The irony however, though logical, is that drivers still end their trips at the local bus interchanges despite not being able to serve them in what seems to be yet another stifling PTC regulation which would probably be on the basis of “reducing duplication and competition with the train which is the backbone of Singapore’s public transport”. Like CT8 for instance, the 577 also terminates at Yio Chu Kang Terminal despite starting and ending its trip at Ang Mo Kio Avenue 9 which is just about two stops away.

Two of these City Shopper routes however, have caused much confusion among commuters due to the fact that they call at the exactly the same bus stops, for both directions! Reason being these two routes, the 575 and 576, utilise the ECP in its return direction such that it makes greater sense to call at the stops nearer to the ECP first rather than make one whole round via PIE. Not to say though that it’s totally impossible. Now that part of the Kallang-Paya Lebar Expressway (KPE) between the ECP and PIE is already open, buses can conveniently make use of this link to join the PIE from the city, after which entering Bedok and Tampines respectively without having to call at the same stops but at the stops opposite the road instead, which is definitely much less confusing, if still confusing at all!

Whichever roads used however, these relatively expensive premium services might not seem worth the cost in the event of a massive traffic congestion be it along the expressways (note that almost all the services utilise the congestion-prone Central Expressway) or in the city centre itself.

Regardless of the very steep fare (which is much more expensive than a $3 ride on a NightRider), ridership has been quite encouraging, but that could also be probably due to the festive season coinciding with the school holidays. And speaking about fares, even the drivers themselves got confused as to whether to charge students $1 or the flat rate. This stems from the confusing posters which states that the fares for “Child” is $1.00 and “Adults” $3.30 or $3.60, with no concessionary travel applicable. This is unlike the usual template which spells “Child/Student” as paying $1.00 for instance but still with no concessionary travel allowed. By now that should be ironed out. Hopefully.

Regardless of the confusion these new set of services may bring, one thing is for certain: that SBS Transit is definitely going big on premium bus services, which are essentially introduced to plug the gap consisting of those who can afford to pay a little extra for a faster and more comfortable ride but cannot afford expensive personal cars.

And from the missing numbers in the 5XX series (the 551 being the outstandingly odd one out from its other counterparts in the 57X and 58X range), we can definitely expect more of such services to be launched in the near future.

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Comments»

1. Carol Kuok - February 21, 2008

I waited over 30 minutes for the 551 service – it never came and I gave up since it ends at 4:30 pm! Whilst waiting for the 551 service, I noticed that service 74 had 3 buses coming within 2 minutes. Quite ridiculous!

2. hafizbam - February 26, 2008

#1: CityShopper service 551 is a premium bus service with a designated frequency of about 30 minutes depending on traffic conditions and it operates only during a certain time period of the day. You may wish to check out more information regarding this service at SBS Transit’s website.

Service 74 on the other hand, is a high-demand basic bus service providing a very convenient link between Buona Vista/Bukit Timah and Ang Mo Kio/Hougang. It is especially popular with students of Singapore Polytechnic, Ngee Ann Polytechnic, SIM etc and thus, requires a very good frequency and deployment of high capacity buses to cope with the daily crowds.

Hence, it is abit unfair to compare apples with oranges, though I agree a frequency of more than 30 minutes is unsatisfactory.


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